HM3: Potential code changes

I'm working my way through a great usability study Mark Shute did (for which he got an outstanding A+ in a 700 level course -- woot Mark!). Before I actually hack up the code, I wanted to present the basic layout and concept here for your input and feedback.

One of the key recommendations arising from the study was the need for better explanation of the tools, and to put more of them in dedicated tabs. Here are the proposed changes for the Transform tab:


I've introduced a text field at the top left that will change as you mouse over each function, explaining in more detail what it does. The main impetus for this is the Mask tool, which confuses lots of people. I don't know if this will be enough space to explain what needs to be done, though. Mark recommended putting Mask onto its own tab, but then that seems to be MORE space than I would know what to do with.

Other changes here include renaming Scale to Resize, as there was some confusion over what Scale is supposed to mean. I also did away with the lock button for the Resize control, since some folks expressed an expectation that a lock meant you wouldn't be able to change the values at all, not that the proportions would be locked. So I moved that down to its own line and made a check box labeled "Match proportions", hoping that would be more intuitive. Finally, I did away with the brown "go triangle" buttons, as no one got what that was supposed to mean at all. Instead simply hitting ENTER or removing focus (i.e. clicking on anything else) will set the value as entered.

I also moved the Mask, Flip, Clear All, and Random buttons here as they seemed more Transformative. The goal is to remove all of the control buttons from the area between the ad and the character window and instead put them in the appropriate tabbed area. At present the tabs would be Items, Color, Pattern, Transform, File, View, and Help.

You might notice that the three separate color tabs would be consolidated into just one. Mark found that people were confused by having them separated, but that radio buttons were much easier for them to grasp. So now all the colors are set in the same place. The "Color all Skin", "Color all Hair", and "Paintbrush" tool buttons are also relocated here. Eventually I'll probably have a "Clear all colors" type of button here too:


I've had requests to bring back the "swap colors" and "apply color1 to color2" types of buttons, but I honestly don't know how to implement that, layout-wise, for three colors instead of two.

Finally, the most ambitious (and hardest) of the suggestions Mark made was to take the now-clear area between the ad and the character to put a constantly updated list of items currently on the character, like this:


Ideally, each item on the list would be stackable by dragging it to the level you wanted. That's going to be really hard to program.

Anyway, there you have it, the major changes I am undertaking to the interface. Please let me know what you think of these, as well as any other major things you can think of that you would like to change.

25 Responses to HM3: Potential code changes

  1. Connor S. says:

    Well, I’m really likin where you’re going with this, although the face in that picture was sort of choppy. I think HM3 is going to be great, I was just concerned with more tops and leggings, because any time I try some med-evil, I always end up with the same pants and same two tops. Also I was thinking you guys should put in some more fantasy-based items, because that is my style, and many ohters. Thanks for listening, and, please heed my requests

  2. Brad says:

    I think the best way to do the color swap buttons would be to keep it the way it was in 2.5 i.e. have it just between color 1 and color 2 and then have the line color separate. At least, that’s what I was expecting.

    All in all looks good though

  3. Kaldath says:

    I agree with Brad, most of the time I don’t change the line color unless I am using dark colors and want then line work to stand out against it which is easily done manually.

  4. Jake says:

    This is a great idea. I agree that the color swap should only be between color 1 and 2. Only advanced users use the line color one anyway and it isn’t nearly as important. I particularly like the idea of the list of things you have. Much easier, especially when working with small things. Looks a lot easier to use. One concern that I have had with the “Match Proportions” or whatever it is called. I don’t like how it scales it back from 100×100. There have been times where I found 120×90, but it needs to be scaled down proportionally. Is there a way to keep that?

    I would rather see some of the bugs cleaned up first. Every time I try more complex ideas, I have to deal with some problem or another. The other day I was doing a lot of pattern work and it closed my browser completely. I’m sure you’ve heard about most of the things like this. I would just like to see them cleaned up. It can be rather tragic losing that hard work because of a system error.

  5. tristan says:

    Really good work Jeff. while you are changing stuff would it be possible to put the faces from the warrior mini and the horor mini in to a folder just called faces and put the eyes and mouths in the zombie face folder into the respective(is that the right word)folders???

  6. Hammerknight says:

    Swap color does nothing for me except to add another button, it is easy enough to just change them. Other then that the color box looks great. The match portion thing is the same way, when all you have to do is to change the numbers, it would be to easy to hit it by mistake and change stuff when you didn’t mean to. I’ll think some more on the other stuff.

  7. dementedtheclown says:

    @Jeff Will The Items Be In Order? I Like Everything Except The Last Idea, The Categorys See Too Spread Out That Way.

    Also can you remove the negatives on the rotate wheel, because you cant manually put in negatives, and its gets confusing for matching up items. Says Degrees (0 to 360) But Goes To 180 Then -179.

    Maybe Instead Of A Description Bar You Can Have A ?mark That Follows The Mouse And Tells You What Tools Do Once You Click Them.

    Custom colors are hard to make skin colors with, Idk how you could fix this may a separate color picker for skintones?

    And color all hair, or color and body buttons dont repeat patterns, so you gotta do them manually.

    Also Randomize, And Help Never Do Anything For Me, Are They Supposed To?

    And Idk What In Transform The Arrow Button Going <<< That Was Does.

    And I Think Head Face Feet And Hands Should Be Included In Color All Body Button.

    Last thing is scaling while flipped, flips items back, kinda annoying.

    Ty -Clown

  8. neon_n64 says:

    I like what I see πŸ™‚

    About the Swap Colors buttons.

    The main reason why I want them back is because Color 1 and Color 2 can be easily mixed up.

    Lets say I add an item and I want to color part of it with blue and the other with black, so I choose color 1 and then pick the blue color, but then I realize that I just colored with blue the area that I wanted in black.

    That’s why a Color Swap button would be useful.

    The base problem is that there is no way to tell what area of the drawing correspond to Color 1 and what part correspond to Color 2. So if you mix up Color 1 with Color 2 a Swap Colors button is an easier and faster way to correct it.

    The Line Color doesn’t have this problem because is easily distinguishable from the other colors (If I hit Color 2 I may not know what part of the drawing correspond to it, but if I hit Line Color then obviously the part of the drawing that correspond to it is the line).

    Changing the subject. There’s something that has been bothering me about the scale function. I don’t know if I’m alone in this or if other people think the same but…

    I think items should grow by moving the pointer up instead of dawn.

    And since you asked about β€œmajor things you can think”…

    Is it possible to implement a Group/Ungroup feature? Something like selecting several items by clicking on them while pressing another key then pressing a Group button. Basically something like current Group feature, but allowing you to choose ANY items.

  9. The Eric says:

    demented: “And color all hair, or color and body buttons dont repeat patterns, so you gotta do them manually.”
    Hmm, how about buttons that let you pattern other items or all skin/all hair?

    Also, how about a “Magnifying Glass” button that lets you zoom the view in on any area?

  10. tristan says:

    the side list layer thing is wired and i think un neaded. for the colour swap buttons just do it so it only swaps colour 1 and 2 not the line colour which dosnt need to be changed much

  11. Isia says:

    I like the idea Eric had about the “magnifying Glass” button. It would be nice when working on faces and smaller detail to be able to zoom in on it so you can actually see what you are working on. I disagree with this one, by demented: “Also can you remove the negatives on the rotate wheel, because you cant manually put in negatives, and its gets confusing for matching up items. Says Degrees (0 to 360) But Goes To 180 Then -179.” When I am working on a character and I want, say, the ears to line up correctly if I have tilted them. I know if one is set to 9, the other one is set to -9.

    Over all I was happy with the version that is there now with the exception of a few minor thing, so any improvements on it now is just icing.

  12. MegaGoober says:

    OH. MY. GAWD!! This is beautiful!! Man, if you can do this… I will forever love you and your work – not that that was ever a problem before πŸ˜›

  13. MegaGoober says:

    Oops, I should have looked before i commented… since I don’t like wasting space, but…

    I have a proposition or your color swapping dilemma:
    Have a swap between your color 1 and color 2, and have a swap between color 2 and Line color. That way, if you want to swap color 1 and Line Color, you just swap using both buttons! We can handle the little amount of labor that forces us, and I’ll ever increase my love for what you do.

  14. Hammerknight says:

    Okay I understand what you mean by the list of items by having is list it will make it easier to go directly the the item that you want to work on, which stops you from having to go into the menu and track the item down. Yes I like that. One thing I have found while doing the characters, is that faster is not always better, the faster you go the better chance that you will lock up the program and lose everything. I rarely use the same button I just take my time and allow the program to do it’s thing. So faster to me is not the best. I like some of the new ideas, but I also like what is there already, I am use to it and able to fully understand what needs to be done.

  15. chase says:

    Jeff I was one HM3 and I noticed a few new stuff popping up independently

  16. dementedtheclown says:

    neon_n64: “Is it possible to implement a Group/Ungroup feature? Something like selecting several items by clicking on them while pressing another key then pressing a Group button. Basically something like current Group feature, but allowing you to choose ANY items.”

    I Wondered The Same Thing

    @Isia, Maybe It Can Display Both Number? Sumthin Like This?

    @hammerknight, I Agree Change Is Scary

  17. Martianblue says:

    I agree with bringing back the color 1 & 2 swap button.
    I also like the Quick Reference List.
    A default size button would be nice. More than once, I’ve left my selection on all items and moved the scale accidently.
    I don’t like the custom colors interface actually. Maybe I’m missing something, but when you choose a custom color, it’s set, until you go all the way throught the custom slots and double back. I would like to be able to click on the same color and change it multiple times, instead of the way it is as of now.
    Looks good, Jeff.

  18. Kaldath says:

    I don’t like the custom color function of HM# at all and do not use it, I much perfer the one from Heromachine 2.5

  19. Reid says:

    Really like the item list interface idea
    In fact all the proposals outlined in the 3 screen shots look awesome.
    Keep up the great work !!!

  20. Worf says:

    @dementedtheclown: It would be better if the program accepted negative numbers in the rotate box. As Isia(#11) said, it helps a lot rotating opposite pieces.

    @Jeff: I think just about everyone is thinking of swapping color 1 and color 2 when they ask for the color swap button… Line color is a more specific thing.

    @dementedtheclown(again): The first screen Jeff put up has a “grouping” section at the bottom… I believe the Idea is exactly what you asked for, grouping different items as “one”. Jeff, that would be awesome BTW, and please correct me if I am wrong.

  21. Jeff Hebert says:

    No, the grouping thing pictured is the same as now, with pre-defined groups. Demented is asking for user-defined groups, instead of the current Jeff-defined groups. I have no plans at this time for such a feature.

  22. Danny Beaty says:

    I would like to see a “Multiples All” button, so I wouldn’t always have to select “Multiples”.

  23. dementedtheclown says:

    @Danny good idea

  24. Danny Beaty says:

    @dementedtheclown: Thanks!

  25. cfc says:

    I think these are all excellent ideas. The separate tabs for colors has always felt particularly awkward to me, so I really like the idea of using radio buttons instead.

    However, the text area on the transform tab seems like a poor way to handle one confusing button, IMHO. Instead, the first time someone clicks on Mask, it should pop up with a box explaining how to use it. This box can be as large or small as it needs to be to fit the explanation; at the bottom, have a checkbox that says “Do not show this tip again” and have it set a cookie.